Back in the 1960s, when the fluoridation of water became widespread, objections to the practice tended to come from the fringes.
It was a communist plot to poison the water supply, came the cry from some quarters.
Today, as municipalities begin to debate fluoridation anew, the arguments against it are more mainstream.
Halton’s Health and Social Services Committee recently voted to recommend to the full regional council that Halton stop fluoridating its water.
Added in trace concentrations to the drinking water of some 43 per cent of Canadian municipalities, fluoride has a proven track record of preventing tooth decay.
But today, many experts argue, we no longer need to run fluoride out of our taps.
That’s the conclusion University of Toronto dental professor Dr. Hardy Limeback came to long ago, after studying the issue extensively.
Limeback, whose fluoridation stance has caused some consternation in the dental and public health communities, says almost everyone gets enough fluoride from toothpaste and other oral hygiene products.
“Even those people who rely on food banks pick up fluoridated toothpaste for their families,” he said in an email interview, adding “fluoridated water is not needed for the poor.”
Indeed, Limeback says fluoridated toothpaste, introduced around the same time as the water supplies were being converted, is likely as responsible as tap water for the drop in decay.
As well, experts point out, some advanced countries such as Sweden never fluoridated water supplies, and many European countries are stopping the practice. Tooth decay rates are no higher in Europe than in Canada, Limeback says.
He also says there are legitimate health concerns associated with fluoridation, mainly related to the potential for over-ingestion.
In infants younger than one year, fluoride may cause dental fluorosis, or the staining of tooth enamel, according to a National Research Council of Canada warning in 2006.
Limeback points to studies linking fluoride to neural damage in infants, leading to lower IQ levels in later life.
If children brush with fluoridated toothpaste twice a day, they don’t need another source of fluoride, Limeback says.